You have seen the headlines: “A Record Number of Americans are Quitting Their Jobs,” (CNN, October 12, 2021). To put it in perspective, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), commissioned by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that 2.9% of Americans quit their jobs in August, up from 2.7% in July. This translates to about 4.3 million Americans who left their jobs in August, the most since the survey began in 2000. The report is generally about a month behind, so the September and October numbers won’t be out until November and December, respectively. I see those already outrageous numbers going ever higher.
The question is why? While the argument over the summer was centered on pay, benefits, and working conditions, the argument is shifting to vaccine mandates. Many workers are deciding to leave their jobs, whether it be through resignation or termination, rather than get the COVID-19 vaccine. This could not have come at a worse time for the country. First, we are in the middle of a pandemic. It’s no secret that vaccination is the way out of this pandemic, and, personally, I believe the vaccine is safe and effective. In fact, I have been vaccinated since February. But again, that is my personal feeling on the vaccine. On the other hand, I fully understand how others could be hesitant on getting the vaccine. The issue has been so politicized that even Donald Trump’s followers booed him when he told them to get vaccinated. Remember back in 2020 when then President Trump took full credit for getting the vaccine approved and in use in record time through Operation Warp Speed? Now, even his own followers are undermining what could have been a huge political win!
With that said, I believe everyone that wanted the vaccine has, for the most part, already been vaccinated. The government mandates on healthcare workers, educational employees, and Federal Government employees really have not improved the vaccination rates as expected. In fact, it looks like more people are choosing to leave their jobs or ask for accommodations rather than submit to a forced vaccination. And again, this is only my opinion, but when the new OSHA rules, forcing every private employer with more than 100 employees to require its employees to be vaccinated, becomes effective, we will see yet another jump in resignation and terminations. This is only going to worsen the persisting labor and supply chain troubles.
So, the second question is what could we have done better? There’s no question that Americans do not like being told what to do, especially during a time when trust in government is at an all-time low. In order to answer this question, we have to go back to late 2020, early 2021, when the vaccines were being rolled out. Rather than let politics and social media drive the conversation and information regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, the government should have taken the bull by the horns and hired a marketing firm to control the message. Both former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden hold the blame for the poor messaging and misinformation that persists today. Had the messaging been done right, the COVID-19 vaccine would have been less politicized, more trusted, and government mandates may not have been necessary.
Of course, in reality, that did not happen. And now we are stuck with a divided society, a labor crisis, a supply chain crisis, soaring inflation, low worker moral, a low vaccination rate, a pandemic that will not quit, and millions of Americans out of work, again. Oh, and to top it off, CNN reported this morning that up to half of the Chicago Police Department could be placed on unpaid leave over the City’s vaccine mandate. This is happening in a city where crime is out of control. Do the residents of Chicago, and other major cities, really want their police forces cut in half over their vaccination status? I know I don’t.
Lastly, we must ask ourselves, how do we fix this? That’s the big question; I don’t have a good answer, but I have my opinions. First, it is not too late to drive the vaccine narrative. Get the right information out to the public through a forum that is trusted—which is a challenge in itself—and provide all the supporting data. Social media has a role in this, and censoring people’s opinions only leads to more mistrust. This first step is going to be a huge lift, but at the same time a very delicate balancing act. Next, I think the government should not be the force driving the mandates. If private industry feels that vaccinating employees is good for business, let the businesses make that decision. Governmental mandates on anything always lead to pushback and conspiracy theories that diminish the final result. This, so far, looks like it is not going to be any different. Finally, get the vaccines in the hands of private physicians who patients trust. Under the current system, patients often are asked to go to a vaccination site, which many are not doing. Give the vaccine in the office, right then and there, immediately after the conversation on why vaccines work.
Whether these ideas will actually help or not, I just don’t know; I don’t think anyone does. The point is that the Country’s leadership needs to start thinking out of the box and coming up with solutions that actually address the problems the country is facing, regardless of the politics or power struggles involved. Leave the childish measuring contests on the playground where they belong.
Getting back to the point, yes, in my opinion, governmental vaccine mandates will only cause an exacerbation of the many problems this country faces. There has to be a better way to jump start the economy while at the same time increasing the vaccination rates.